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Seabrook town hall meeting addresses healthcare

At town hall meetings in Tampa and St. Louis, Georgia and Philadelphia, loud and angry protestors condemned President Barack Obama’s plan for health insurance reform. Not in the Bronx.

On Wednesday, August 19, Councilman Larry Seabrook and Public Advocate candidate John Liu hosted a town hall meeting on health insurance reform at the Bartow Mall in Co-op City. More than a hundred Bronx residents, including a large contingent of Co-op City church mothers, attended.

No one shut the door. No one chanted. No one compared Obama to Hitler. Attendees did offer emotional testimony, however. Seabrook promised to share the results of the meeting with the president’s health insurance reform team. Jennifer Edwards of Co-op City volunteered to be a poster woman for Obama’s plan.

“I paid more than $5,000 to Blue Cross Blue Thieves!” Edwards said. “Only to be denied because of a pre-existing condition. We have to fight for [health insurance reform].”

Elizabeth Hayes of Co-op City attended the town hall meeting to ask whether or not Obama would establish a public health insurance option.

“There has been so much controversy,” Hayes said. “Obama should stop reaching out to the Republicans. They stab him in back every time.”

Although Hayes is retired and is on Medicare, her granddaughter, who works at a chain restaurant, has no health insurance. Hayes is furious at conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. Limbaugh and Beck are stupid, she said.

Seabrook agreed.

“We must not let the Republican Party right-wing con artists lie [about health insurance reform],” the councilman said.

Mary Helen Clark of Co-op City attended the town hall meeting because she didn’t know what to believe or who to trust on the airwaves.

“The radio is a mess,” Clark said.

Mary of Co-op City, who didn’t give her first name, is behind the public option. It would offer Bronx residents an alternative to existing health insurers, whom Mary compared to bandits.

“People are worried that the government will dictate what you do,” she said. “But [existing] health insurers already dictate what you do.”

One of the few young adults at the meeting quoted right-wing pundit Bill O’Reilly.

“How does Obama’s plan address the nurse shortage?” he asked.

Seabrook praised Obama and reminded the crowd that the health insurance reform plan resembles Medicaid and Medicare. Government health insurance already exists, he said. Seabrook and Liu encouraged attendees to get involved.

“The plan isn’t a tweak,” Liu said. “The plan is a change and change is what we elected Obama for.”

David of Baychester works at Montefiore Medical Center and is insured, but his wife is uninsured. Bronx residents deserve government health insurance, Seabrook said. Congressmen and congresswomen boast excellent government health insurance.

“We need the public option,” he stated. “People say, ‘You want socialism. You want what Cuba’s got.’ No, we want what Congress got!”

Seabrook and Liu will show the Michael Moore documentary Sicko on Friday, August 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Dreiser Auditorium in Co-op City.

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